Two years after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, companies are finally beginning to align their sustainability strategies with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are increasingly being used to inform decision making and guide strategy, which is helping drive innovation and create new value along the value chain. The result of these intensifying efforts has been a positive shift across the 17 SDGs, a trend which is highlighted in the UN Secretary General’s 2017 Sustainable Development Goal Progress Report.
The report, Progress Towards the Sustainable Development Goals, will be presented at the beginning of the 2017 session of the UN High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) on July 10th, but preliminary results have already emerged. The report points to general improvements across the board, but the overwhelming consensus is that more work needs to be done to truly deliver on the objectives outlined in the 2030 Agenda.
According to the report, notable progress is being made on SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG 15 (life on land), as the public and private sector alike ramp up efforts to improve access to health services and programs that encourage healthy living and develop new solutions to provide clean water to water scarce regions. Organizations and governments are also taking action to reduce practices across the supply chain that threaten worker well-being and valuable natural resources. According to the report, deforestation has slowed significantly, thanks in part to a rise in sustainable forest management, as well as initiative being taken by companies such as BNP Paribas to set responsible palm oil production as a prerequisite for financing.
SDGs 7 (affordable and clean energy), 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action), 14 (life below water) and 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) point to worsening conditions and a need for strong efforts to be taken.
The evolution of tracking progress on the SDGs
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Progress on SDG 7 falls short of the mark in terms of achieving energy access for all and meeting targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency. The report has identified a need for higher levels of financing and bolder policy commitments.
SDG 12 displays worsening trends for consumption, with domestic material consumption increasing from 1.51 kg to 1.73 kg per unit of GDP from 2000 to 2010 and a rise in the total domestic material consumption during the same period, from 48.7 billion tons to 71.1 billion tons. The report calls for the widespread adoption and integration of national frameworks for sustainable consumption and production into national and sectoral plans.
In regards to SDG 13, climate-related hazards and natural disasters continue to rise, yet disaster risk reduction measures aren’t doing enough to protect communities. More action must be taken in order to build resistance and limit risks.
Observations on SDG 14 reiterate the dangers pollution, eutrophication and overfishing pose to the world’s oceans. The proportion of world marine fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels has declined from 90 percent in 1974 to 68.6 percent in 2013, though the trend appears to be slowing. The report points to marine protected areas as being an important tool for safeguarding ocean life.
Progress on SDG 16 is uneven across and within regions, but the report shows that there has been an overwhelming increase in violent conflicts in recent years, despite a decline in homicides and better access to justice for more citizens around the world.
For the rest of the SDGs, the report indicates that while some action is being taken, more must be done for real transformation to take place.
The report also notes that tracking progress on the SDGs requires an unprecedented amount of data and statistics at all levels. It emphasizes that the amount of data and statistics needed to track SDG progress poses a major challenge to national and international statistical systems and notes that the global statistical community is working to modernize and strengthen statistical systems.